Tuesday, November 20

Cricket legend-turned-politician becomes ‘terrorist’

Few will dispute that Imran Khan was the finest cricketer Pakistan has ever produced, and the biggest heart-throb one can wish to be. But on Wednesday, he was indicted under Anti-Terrorism Act after he was thrashed by those, who once-upon-a-time must have idolised him when he sprinted at the cricket field.

Debonair, articulate and daring in his posture, which Imran Khan has always been through out his life, made a mistake of supporting General Pervez Musharraf in 1999 (for which he begged pardon on numerous occasions). Though considered to be a relative failure on political pitch, he led a virtually hopeless team to win the 1992 World Cup, only once in the history of cricket-frenzy nation.
He was made to ‘opt’ for retirement immediately afterwards even when the celebrations were not over, but was successful in establishing the first-ever cancer hospital in the memory of his mother Shaukat Khanum, who had succumbed to cancer a few years back.
Still a hero, he opted for another pitch to play, that is, politics. Never bowled on bouncy wickets in Pakistan, but he chose to bat against aggressive political pitchers to likes of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto when in 1996 he founded his own party ‘Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’ – ‘only independent judiciary can dispense justice and provide relief to the people’.
Next year, he could not win even a single seat when the legislative elections were held after Benazir Bhutto’s exit as Prime Minister for the second time, as the stories of his previous love escapades were flashed across the media. It could have been one of the reasons of his failure, but he stuck to his stance and kept on working towards his goal.
On October 12, 1999, General Pervez Musharraf took over. Most of the people, including politicians, were jubilant, but nearly no one came to the fore to support Musharraf explicitly except Imran Khan for which he begged pardon when the General ‘treated cancer with Aspirin’, as Khan put it so himself.
He remained a high-profile figure, with his marriage, and subsequent split with the socialite Jemima Khan (Goldsmith) and a not entirely successful move into the labyrinthine world of Pakistan politics.
At the last legislative elections, October 20, 2002, the Party won 0.8 per cent of the popular vote and one out of 272 elected members, that is, Imran Khan became a vocal MNA. Hence he won a phrase ‘Tonga Party’ for the PTI.
However, his following never withered and his popularity graph grew because of his stance against the present dispensation.
Since November 3, after the imposition of the emergency, he was on the run in his hometown till Wednesday, he surfaced to land in Kot Lakhpat jail after humiliation at the hands of the Islami Jamiat Talaba, a youth wing of the Jama’at-e-Islami. For the first time in his life, Imran Khan had spent his first night in jail as a convict of the state under the 7-ATA – promulgated by his past political adversary and now a political supporter exiled Nawaz Sharif, who was tried under the same Act too.

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